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Friday, February 23, 2024

Google+ Reverses Social-Network Curse, Challenges Facebook

By Harry McCracken, courtesy of TIME

With technology, as in the rest of life, eternal verities have a funny way of turning out not to be so eternal after all. For eons, everybody has known that Google is hopelessly inept when it comes to building social-networking services. Each one it has unveiled has seemed to confirm that truism, from Wave (shuttered 2½ months after opening to the public) to Buzz (still extant, but famous mostly for the uproar over its shoddy privacy practices).

Last week, the search-engine kingpin announced Google+, its latest attempt to muscle its way into the people-centric territory where Facebook and Twitter reign supreme. Rather than launch this offering with a prematurely triumphant media event like the ones it gave Wave and Buzz, Google alerted the world to Google+’s existence via a modest blog post and a few videos. Then it began a closed field test and let in a bunch of bloggers and journalists — some of the same folks who have delighted in bashing the company for its lack of social skills. And … they liked it! A lot! (See pictures of the meteoric rise of YouTube.)

It’s too early to declare Google+ a success. For one thing, it’s still not fully open to the public. (Google has been admitting newcomers in small, sporadic batches; you can get on the waitlist at plus.google.com.) For another, it’s an unapologetic work in progress. But it has enormous potential — both to be a cool online destination and to redefine the dynamics of the ongoing battle between the Web’s biggest companies. Already, it’s having an impact. Facebook unveiled a new person-to-person video-calling service in partnership with Skype this week, but the fact that Google+’s Hangout feature permits up to 10 people to chat via Webcam made Facebook’s news less of a big whoop.

Google calls Google+ a "project," which is about right. It’s not one thing but several of them loosely stitched together and with existing Google services like the Picasa photo-sharing service. Some of it is cribbed directly from Facebook. The Stream is Facebook’s News Feed, Posts are the Wall, and the +1 button is a shameless imitation of the Facebook Like button that’s been pressed billions of times all over the Web.

Read more here: Google+ Reverses Social-Network Curse, Challenges Facebook, TIME.

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